Sediment in a hot water heater.

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Recently there has been posts about draining hot water heaters and the pros as well as the cons in doing this. Typical maintenance on a hot water heater is to flush the bottom drain at least once a year. In some towns where they flush their fire hydrants to keep the pipes clear it is suggested to follow their lead a few days after as any sediment that is disturbed ends up on the bottom of your heater.
What happens then is water displacement. The sandy partials that collect on the bottom of the tank displaces the water ever so slightly. This results in hot spots on the bottom of the tank. When this occurs the flames overheat the tank and begin to break down the steel. After many years this breakdown ends up becoming a tiny hole that is filled with this debris, oftentimes preventing the leak.
However if you decide to drain your heater after many years of not doing it, or all of a sudden you start using the heater more then normal, this sediment that has been plugging that tiny hole is flushed out, often resulting in a leak in a few days after.
So the moral is to flush yearly, but if you have not done so for many years to not touch it or you will end up with a leak.
After draining you may find that the flush hose bib valve at the bottom will not turn off. This is because of some sediment that has blocked the valve and prevented it from turning off. If that happens a hose bib cap can be purchased at the local hardware store for about $1.50 put that on and your good to go. The photo is the inside of such a valve on a hot water heater that was 6 years old and had never been flushed. We tried to empty this tank to replace with a new high efficiency tankless, next photo but the hole was so small it only trickled out. The new heater will produce enough hot water for two showers, one laundry and one dishwasher to run all at the same time.

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      • Jamala W
        Jamala W Whitmire, SC
        on Mar 20, 2013

        thanks for the info

        • Leslie D
          Leslie D Las Vegas, NV
          on Mar 20, 2013

          Great info. We're in Las Vegas, with extremely hard water and our gas water heater is about 20 years old and has made loud bubbling sounds after using hot water (although it functions perfectly) ever since we moved in (6 years ago). We're thinking of replacing the sacrificial anode rod, but doubt that it has ever been changed before and are afraid of just stirring up sediment or even having the rod break off inside if it's severely corroded. It has a 6-year tank warranty, so I'm assuming there's only one rod and probably not much of it left by now. Your thoughts on whether it would be beneficial to even bother changing the rod, or is it just time to replace it?